Libya's Prime Minister freed from captivity

TRIPOLI - Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan has returned to his office after being held for several hours by militiamen loosely allied to the government.

Two years after the overthrow of Col Muammar Gaddafi, Libya still has no constitution and divisions between secular and Islamist forces have paralysed parliament.

The government has been struggling to contain the numerous militias who control many parts of the country.
'No warrant'

State TV broadcast live as Mr Zeidan arrived at his office in Tripoli.

There was a high security presence as his car pulled up outside. The prime minister made no immediate comment but was expected to give a news briefing.

Foreign Minister Mohammed Abdelaziz said earlier he had no details on the circumstances of the release.

It was unclear whether the militia had released the prime minister voluntarily or whether other security forces had intervened.

Mr Zeidan had been taken in a pre-dawn raid on the Corinthia Hotel by more than 100 armed men.

The LROR said it was acting on the orders of the prosecutor general and in accordance with a section of Libya's criminal code relating to "crimes and misdemeanours harmful to state security".

But Justice Minister Salah al-Marghani said the prosecutor general had issued no arrest warrant, according to state-run National Libyan TV.

Photographs circulating online and shown on TV showed Mr Zeidan surrounded by what it said were armed men as he was led away. There were no reports of violence during his capture.

The prime minister was reportedly being held at the interior ministry anti-crime department in Tripoli, where an official said he was being treated well.

The head of security at the Corinthia Hotel describes the moment the Libyan PM was seized

In a news conference shortly before the release was announced, the government condemned the "criminal act" of his detention and said it would not give in to "blackmail".

The LROR is one of a number of militias operating in Libya which are nominally attached to government ministries but often act independently and, correspondents say, often have the upper hand over police and army forces.

The prime minister had earlier this week appeal for Western help in tackling rising militancy in Libya.

In an interview with the BBC on Monday, he said Libya was being used as a base to export weapons throughout the region.

Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan has returned to his office after being held for several hours by militiamen loosely allied to the government.

The Libya Revolutionaries Operations Room said it had captured Mr Zeidan in Tripoli, claiming it was acting on orders from the prosecutor general.

The justice ministry denied this.

The militia was one of several groups angered by a US commando raid on Libyan soil on Saturday in which senior al-Qaeda suspect Anas al-Liby was seized.

Many saw the raid as a breach of Libyan sovereignty. There is growing pressure on the government to explain if it was involved but in a statement, the Revolutionaries Operations Room (LROR) said its actions had not been related to Mr Liby's detention.

The official Lana news agency also named another formal rebel group, the Brigade for the Fight against Crime, as being involved.

The Libya Revolutionaries Operations Room (LROR) is one of many "semi-official" armed groups which control much of Libya in the absence of a regular police and army. The group has been endorsed in the past by the speaker of Libya's parliament, Nuri Abu Sahmayn.

Its modus operandi, judging from its Facebook page, is to raid and arrest those accused of financial impropriety or who have links with Col Gaddafi's government. But the kidnapping of the prime minister is by far its most high-profile operation.

The group was among two named by the prime minister's website as being responsible for seizing Zeidan. The other was the Anti-Crime Unit, which is affiliated with the ministry of the interior. It is not clear yet which group led the operation. But LROR has been the most active in getting its message across, through its Facebook page.

It says the arrest had nothing to do with the US capture of terror suspect Abu-Anas al-Liby on Saturday, saying that Zeidan had to answer for financial misdemeanours. However, it did condemn the US raid as a criminal act.

Two years after the overthrow of Col Muammar Gaddafi, Libya still has no constitution and divisions between secular and Islamist forces have paralysed parliament.

The government has been struggling to contain the numerous militias who control many parts of the country.

State TV broadcast live as Mr Zeidan arrived at his office in Tripoli.

There was a high security presence as his car pulled up outside. The prime minister made no immediate comment but was expected to give a news briefing.

Foreign Minister Mohammed Abdelaziz said earlier he had no details on the circumstances of the release.

It was unclear whether the militia had released the prime minister voluntarily or whether other security forces had intervened.

Mr Zeidan had been taken in a pre-dawn raid on the Corinthia Hotel by more than 100 armed men.

The LROR said it was acting on the orders of the prosecutor general and in accordance with a section of Libya's criminal code relating to "crimes and misdemeanours harmful to state security".

But Justice Minister Salah al-Marghani said the prosecutor general had issued no arrest warrant, according to state-run National Libyan TV.

Photographs circulating online and shown on TV showed Mr Zeidan surrounded by what it said were armed men as he was led away. There were no reports of violence during his capture.

The prime minister was reportedly being held at the interior ministry anti-crime department in Tripoli, where an official said he was being treated well.

The head of security at the Corinthia Hotel describes the moment the Libyan PM was seized

In a news conference shortly before the release was announced, the government condemned the "criminal act" of his detention and said it would not give in to "blackmail".

The LROR is one of a number of militias operating in Libya which are nominally attached to government ministries but often act independently and, correspondents say, often have the upper hand over police and army forces.

The prime minister had earlier this week appeal for Western help in tackling rising militancy in Libya.

In an interview with the BBC on Monday, he said Libya was being used as a base to export weapons throughout the region.

Comments (3)

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Bradley Searle - 19 November 2014

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